As a young child, Eleanor Blackwood witnessed her mother’s murder in woods near their farm. The killer was never found.
Now an adult, Eleanor discovers a woman’s body in the same spot in the Cornish woods where her mother was strangled eighteen years before. But when the police get there, the body has disappeared.
Is Eleanor’s disturbed mind playing tricks on her again, or has her mother’s killer resurfaced? And what does the number on the dead woman’s forehead signify?
On the surface Girl Number One has everything I look for in a book. It starts with a murder and the body count stacks up from there – though not too much and not in a gory way, which I find hard to handle nowadays. In the middle of it all, and seemingly the target of the yet to be caught serial killer, is Ellie – a newly qualified teacher who has moved back to the Cornish village she grew up in. In part, she has moved back to be near her dad but also so she can face her demons – when she was six she saw her mother murdered in the same woods she now goes running every day.
It is whilst she’s out running that she comes across girl number three, a young woman lying dead in the exact spot her mother was murdered. Unfortunately, by the time the police arrive the body is gone and, because of events in Ellie’s past that are never clear, the police don’t believe her. It’s only when the second body turns up that they start to realise she isn’t making things up and she might just be in danger.
All in all, then, the book starts really well. The tension mounts as Ellie tries to get the police to believe her – at the same time as trying to figure out the answers herself. There are friends who might not be as friendly as she thinks, nosey neighbours, and village locals who seem like they have something to hide. It’s no wonder Ellie starts to doubt everyone around her – and I did too.
Unfortunately, after building up the tension, the book didn’t seem to know where to go. Ellie’s behaviour stops seeming to fit with a damaged and frightened young woman and she makes some very bad choices in who to spend time with. It stopped making sense for me at this point and I started to get annoyed, especially in a couple of places where she literally thinks someone is the killer and then gets pretty personal with them seconds later.
I always struggle to enjoy a book if I don’t like the central characters and this started to happen here. I just didn’t warm to Ellie, didn’t feel the risk surrounding her, and – as she is pretty much the only main character in the book – I have to admit that I did start to switch off a little. And, unfortunately, none of the other characters were strong enough to take my eye off being irritated with Ellie. The other thing that distracted me was the police – I really didn’t understand why they didn’t want to give her the time of day at the beginning. Maybe understanding that would have helped me.
That doesn’t mean it was bad book. It wasn’t. The story was a good idea and there were some good twists – I still wasn’t sure which of two main characters were the killer till close to the end (though my suspicions were right). It just needed a little more finessing and tightening in the middle and I think then – for me – it would good from a good book to a great one…meaning I liked but didn’t love this one.
Note: I received a copy of this book from Net Galley in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.